Teach Manners, Teach Empathy

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Two girls pinching their cheeks

Many of the benefits of manners are easy to see: it demonstrates good upbringing; it burnishes a family’s reputation; it provides a set of rules that, when followed, helps individuals “fit in” to society; it may even make the difference between getting promoted and passed over. Yet, there is a deeper payoff to good manners that is often overlooked—the development of empathy.

Good manners is about more than just saying thank you and knowing which fork to use. It helps foster empathy because it is fundamentally about respect and acknowledging the value of others. Those who dismiss manners as inconsequential or “snooty”rarely see beyond the specific behaviors to this greater impact on a person’s capacity to see others’ needs and perspectives. Yet, this capacity is critical for forming healthy relationships in both professional and personal arenas. At the earliest ages (until about 2 years of age) children are the center of their own universe. They are actually incapable of considering others. And, while they are still primarily self-centered in the following few years, they start exhibiting the capacity for sympathy: they feel bad when Bambi loses his mother, or when Cinderella is mistreated by her wicked stepsisters. Manners help children make the developmental leap from sympathy (feeling bad for others) to empathy (understanding others’ feelings and perspectives) by shifting the focus from passive to active learning. They don’t watch manners, they do manners.

Junior Manners Company is committed to giving children the skills they need for true success in life. Classes are filling fast, so get the new school year off to a bright start and register today.

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